Often times in football, the kicker is a relative unknown, his name popping up only when he misses a big kick. Smart money says the Montana State Bobcats will look back on their Sept. 23 match up with the Eastern Eagles and certainly remember Brett Bergstrom’s name.
Bergstrom kicked four field goals for the Eagles, including three in the first half, helping defeat the Bobcats 19-10 and giving Eastern its first win of the year.
The win also came in the first week of Big Sky Conference play, starting the Eagles off on the right foot in the quest for a third-straight conference championship after a trio of tough losses.
“You never want to be 0-3, but you also have to look at who we’ve played,” said Eagles’ Head Coach Paul Wulff. “We played a couple of good teams and then didn’t play well last week. But our kids responded and came back and showed the character we have in our program.”
The character of the defense was certainly on display, as Eastern limited the Bobcats to only 235 yards of total offense.
The Eagles’ offense was able to take advantage, as Matt Nichols had his best game for Eastern this year, going 11-of-19 for 176 yards.
The trio of Tony Davis, Aaron Boyce and Brynsen Brown combined for 176 yards receiving in the victory, as the redshirt freshmen continued to improve and impress.
“They are getting better and they need to,” Wulff said. “We need that consistency of catching the ball and not dropping balls.”
When the Eagles couldn’t manage to get into the end zone, Bergstrom was there to bail them out.
Bergstrom, a former wide receiver and defensive end, kicked field goals of 21, 53, 39 and 30 yards, single-handedly scoring 12 of the Eagles’ 19 points.
With the four successful field goals, Bergstrom has converted all six of his field goal attempts this season and all three of the extra points he has attempted.
“He’s a veteran player and has a strong leg,” Wulff said. “We really feel like we have a player that can help us win games. And he did today.”
Eastern struck first during the game, forcing an MSU fumble on the first play of the game. After a Bergstrom field goal, the Eagles led 3-0 going into the second quarter.
After a Bobcat punt, the Eagles started out at their own one-yard line and drove 63 yards on 10 plays, including a 35-yard pass reception by Davis that helped set the stage for another Bergstrom field goal, one that would earn a spot in the Eastern record book.
Bergstrom booted a 53-yard field goal, the fourth-longest in EWU history, and the Eagles took a 6-0 lead.
The kicker gave the Eagles a 9-0 lead on the final play of the first half with another field goal, this one measuring 39 yards.
The Bobcats capitalized on a Nichols interception in the third quarter, scoring and setting the score at 9-7, but the Eagles immediately responded with a nine-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Toke Kefu.
Kefu, who did not play in the first three games because the Eagles had planned to redshirt him, ended the game with 93 yards rushing and one touchdown.
After a Bobcat field goal, Eastern closed out the scoring with a 30-yard Bergstrom field goal that sealed the victory.
Five players made their starting debuts for the Eagles, but the changes didn’t hold Eastern back at all, Wulff said.
“Our players responded to the changes and executed well,” he said. “This is a little bit different team than we’ve had in the past. We did some good things and found a way to win.”
Next up for the Eagles are the Hornets of Sacramento State, who travel to Cheney this weekend to take on Eastern.
Kickoff is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. on Sept. 30 at Woodward Field. The Eagles defeated the Hornets 45-17 last season in Sacramento.